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How to Use Your Values as a Motivation Tool


This past week, my motivation, energy, and overall attitude hit the skids. I couldn’t totally explain it until I opened my inbox this morning and checked out Marie Forleo’s latest episode of Marie TV.

But I don’t really want to write about that just yet.

I believe in the power of vulnerability, and I share a fair amount of my personal stories with the public through this blog. Brene Brown explains in her book there’s something called “minding the gap”, which means we have to be honest with ourselves about where we are versus where we want to be.

As a coach, I take this to heart because I don’t feel I can be truly authentic if I don’t own my shit, as it were. I’m not perfect, and I make a point to keep learning about topics that can help me grow as a person so I can practice what I preach, but I often fall way short of the mark.

It’s not always easy to do, but I think I’d be playing small if I didn’t include that part of my story as it relates to some of the bigger concepts I write about.

That said, there’s a difference between embracing vulnerability/owning our learning curve, and “floodlighting”, or trying to curb our discomfort around vulnerability by oversharing our shameful experiences with others because we can’t bear to stay with them on our own.

I’m still processing and sifting. There’s definitely been a shift in awareness around my current experience, and I’m sending myself a little more compassion instead of judgment…and that’s all to report for now.

But having an off week and being in a funky mood did get me thinking about how we choose to show up in our lives, which on a smaller scale, is really about how we practice our values in our day to day.

Yesterday, on the phone with my dad, I told him the difficulty I was having doing my work because I was feeling really low energy. I explained that having a service-based business like coaching, which is really a personal service, means you’re always selling yourself.

When you put yourself out into the world, whether it’s to grocery shop, hit a networking event, sit down to a coffee with a prospect, or write a blog, people are evaluating how well you walk the talk.

They want to see that you apply the principles in your own life, which means you’re your own walking billboard.

So I told my dad, trolling for a little sympathy, “See? That’s why it’s so hard for me right now because I always have to have my head right; I have to keep myself in a really positive mindset; otherwise, what I’m putting out feels hollow and people can pick up on that, and it negatively impacts my business.”

And he said, “Rebecca, that’s true for everyone.”

He was right. The reality is that the stakes of not aligning your held values, or what you claim is important, with your practiced values, or how you actually show up, are high for everyone, whether you’re self-employed or go to an office every day.

The outcome is disengagement. It’s feeling a lack of motivation. It’s a sense that you’re disconnected because the person you’re showing to the world isn’t who you want to be.

On the other hand, when you truly align your values with the vision you hold for your life, synchronicities happen. Things start to flow.

So if you find yourself feeling stuck, disengaged, or like things are taking too much energy and effort, here are a couple ways to uncover your values and start living from them:

1. Consider if your values are “fear-based” or “conscious-based”.

Most clients I have don’t give a lot of thought to their values until I ask them directly. When initially prompted to consider what their top five values are, they often have at least a couple that in the coaching world we refer to as fear-based values.

These are the values that we hold without really knowing where they come from. Often, they’re real origin isn’t from our own experience, but rather those of our parents, or other important people in our lives.

They can be tied to limiting beliefs that we have learned from an early age, like “money doesn’t grow on trees”, which can create the value of persistence or hard work.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but if it’s not actually something that intrinsically motivates you, then it’s likely to get in the way of your success.

That’s because with fear-based values the definition of success might be based on the model of someone else, whereas with conscious-based values we hold them by choice rather than by circumstance.

You could be a person who actually has a conscious-based value of fun and enjoyment, and when you find ways to incorporate that into your work, you are motivated to a higher degree than you ever were when you aligned yourself with the idea of persistence and toiling away.

I can usually tell that someone is speaking from a fear-based value if they keep saying “have to” when they talk about doing something, or they seem to have a low degree of motivation around an activity.

If this sounds like you, and you’re not really sure what your conscious-based values are, here are some questions to get you started:

What do you want to accomplish in life, and why is that important (that second part connects it to a value)?

What does success mean to you?

Think about a time when life was really good, what value was being expressed or honored?

Think about a time when you were upset, what value was being challenged?

2. Use values to reframe and increase engagement for activities you really do “have to” do.

By understanding our values, it makes it easier to set boundaries so that we take on opportunities in support of what we find truly energizing, and say no to the stuff that isn’t in line with what we really care about.

But sometimes there are just going to be tasks that we actually do “have to” do, even if we don’t espouse “fear-based” values. If that’s the case, try to reframe it, or find a way to look at the task in connection with a value.

For example, I would say I don’t really enjoy networking. It’s something I have to do in order to grow my business.

But I deeply value connection, and I can see how networking with intention to find a couple of meaningful conversations aligns with that value, which makes the whole experience of networking much more palatable to me.

So next time you are faced with an unavoidable task that you have to do, ask yourself:

“By taking on this task, how does it honor my value of ______?”

If it doesn’t, then that’s a decision point. If it’s a have to, how can you shift it to “what is the payoff to completing the task or what value does that payoff honor?”

Overall, if you can find a way to look at your less than desirable tasks through the lens of a value, you’ll feel more motivated to complete the task.




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